Emily Johnson will head from Omaha to Indianapolis after watching her son, Spencer, and his BYU teammates lose a close game Thursday to Duquesne in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Why Indianapolis?

Emily, along with her daughter Gracie, will drive 600 miles east to watch her son, Isaac, and his Utah State teammates take on TCU in another first-round game Friday. That wasn’t in the plans, but with the Cougars’ upset loss she figured what’s another road trip after all the miles she has logged the past couple of weeks. Besides, she packed an Aggies shirt just in case. She’ll meet her husband, Darren, who is flying from Salt Lake City to Indianapolis for the game. On Saturday, she and Gracie will drive back to Omaha to fly home.

March really is madness for the Johnson family.

Utah State Aggies center Isaac Johnson (20) celebrates while coming off the floor for a timeout during the game between the Utah State Aggies and the Fresno State Bulldogs in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West 2024 men's basketball championship at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 14, 2024. Utah State won the game 87-75 after going into overtime. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

Not only do the Johnson’s sons play college basketball, their daughter Gracie is a freshman forward on the Utah State women’s team. There are few, if any, parents who can claim three kids playing Division 1 basketball at the same time. And to have two on different teams in the NCAA Tournament is unusual as well.

“March Madness goes to a whole new level for us. It really is kind of madness in a way. I mean it’s great madness. I would never, never trade it,” Emily Johnson said by telephone from the Chi Health Center arena in Omaha.

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Darren and Emily Johnson have been on the road or in the air this month to watch the all three children play in conference and NCAA Tournament games from Las Vegas to Indianapolis and points in between.

“We do it because we love our kids and they worked really hard for this moment. It really doesn’t come around very often. You just gotta enjoy it when it comes,” Darren Johnson said by phone, with the sound of kids in the background at Diamond Ridge Elementary School in West Valley City where he is the principal.

Last week, after watching Utah State play in a first-round loss in the Mountain West Conference women’s tournament in Las Vegas, Emily drove to Kansas City to see Spencer, a senior guard, take the court for BYU in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. After the Cougars lost in the quarterfinals, she drove back to Las Vegas — detouring to Albuquerque to avoid a snowstorm in Denver — in time to catch Isaac, a Utah State sophomore center, in the Mountain West men’s tournament.

In all, she put more than 3,000 miles on a rental car.

Darren managed to get away for the Mountain West men’s tournament but wasn’t able to travel to Kansas City.

While Emily and Gracie were in Omaha for BYU’s first-round NCAA Tournament game, Darren barricaded himself in his school office to watch on TV.

“We had to divide and conquer on this one,” Darren Johnson said.

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For BYU games, the Johnsons don Cougar blue. They change into Aggie blue for Utah State games. Longtime rivals with rabid fan bases, the schools didn’t play each other this year, sparing the parents from having to show a split personality. In opposite brackets in the NCAA Tournament, the only way BYU and Utah State would have met was in the National Championship game.

“I guess I would say to the fan bases, it’s possible to like both universities or multiple universities. You don’t have to hate one in order to like the other,” Darren Johnson said.

The Johnsons have been able to attend most of their kids’ home games in Provo and Logan this season. Traveling for basketball is nothing new for them. Family vacations were planned around various tournaments and showcases across the country for years.

“It has been just wonderful. We’ve been a basketball family for a lot of years. I’m sure a lot of our neighbors thought we were crazy at the time. But we just feel so blessed that our kids have these opportunities. They don’t come around very often,” Darren said.

Emily Johnson expressed the same feelings.

“Why do we do this? Well, I would say these are their dreams. As parents ... sorry it’s going to make me cry, actually ... because as parents we want to support their dreams. We love them. We’re proud of them,” she said. “And if we can help them and support their dreams and just know that this is something that they can do, and the only thing that we can do is just be there and cheer.”

While Spencer’s college basketball career came to an end with 11 points and 16 rebounds Thursday, the Johnsons will still have a few more years to cheer on Isaac and Gracie. And, no doubt, more March Madness will ensue.

Brigham Young Cougars guard Spencer Johnson (20) shoots the ball with Duquesne Dukes forward David Dixon (2) on defense during the game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Duquesne Dukes in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at the CHI Health Center in Omaha on Thursday, March 21, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News